Popular billboard in certain sections of the country, c. 1963
"I'm amazed that the Pope gave an audience to that degenerate."
--J. Edgar Hoover, internal FBI memo
It occurred to me, like, two days ago that I should have posted a quote for every day of the Month. I'm slow. Oh, well, there's always next year, blogging being a growth industry an' all.
Some fun facts about the FBI surveillance of Dr. King:
• Apparently he was unaware of any bugging until Hoover flipped out at a news conference and freed the cat.
• They arranged a meeting to patch things up. Hoover was under the impression by that time that King had received the Suicide Letter, which included sample audio tapes, but the package was still among his unopened mail (it was Coretta who eventually opened it). John Edgar was quite puzzled when King didn't arrive as a supplicant.
• The original explanation for the wiretapping was the activities of King's lawyer, Stanley Levinson. The surveillance continued even though it was learned that Levinson had broken off his connection to the Communist Party (USA) and had never been a member. It continued even after King severed ties with Levinson. The FBI still refuses to release information on its suspicion of Levinson to this day, citing potential danger to an informant.
• Though the Bureau had credible evidence of plots to assassinate King, it never warned him, and the agents who shadowed him were reminded they were there as "observers".
• Among those enlisted to spead the Bureau's anti-King propaganda: Francis Cardinal Spellman, archbishop of New York, who repeatedly contacted the Vatican to attempt to call off the Papial audience; Washington Post columnist Joseph Alsop, the Dean of political reporters (Hoover had tapes of Alsop engaged in a homosexual tryst); and a young St. Louis Gazette editor named Patrick Buchanan.
• Recipients of the Bureau's "information" about King include: Gustav VI of Sweden (before the Nobel awards), the National Council of Churches, and, oddly enough, Strom Thurmond, who loved African-Americans. Well, some, anyway.
• The first public inkling of the Bureau's anti-King crusade came as the result of the defense's discovery motions in the draft-evasion trial of Muhammad Ali.
• FBI surveillance of the SCLC continued at least two years after Hoover's death.
• Among those still using the "King was a commie" line in the 1980s: William F. Buckley, Jr., and Ronald Reagan, who told Coretta Scott King after he signed the King Holiday legislation he'd fought against, "Your husband's struggle was my struggle." No doubt neither felt it necessary for him to explain which side he was on.
• Just as a point of historical reference, this is the same FBI and J. Edgar Hoover which insisted that organized crime did not exist.
Of course, in fairness to the government side of the equation, we were at war:
"If King wants a war, we'll give it to him."
--Cartha "Deke" DeLoach, Assistant to the Director, internal FBI memo.